Riley Anderson '25

Londonderry High School, Londonderry, New Hampshire

Contrary to popular belief, mini-golf is very challenging. The unforgiving, neon green turf and the jagged rock formations send my ball spiraling in the wrong direction and careen straight into the roaring waterfall every time. The irony of my inadequate skills, however, is not lost on my younger sister, who routinely avoids obstacles and sinks her ball straight into the hole. Her embarrassing victory dance follows soon after, much to my own dismay. Notwithstanding my mini-golf shortcomings, I am known as “golf girl” by my peers and have learned much about myself and the game as the sole girl on my high school’s golf team.

Growing up hearing tales of the golf team that my father coached and watching the LPGA from my grandfather’s couch instilled me with a passion for golf. Looking up to Annika Sörenstam and other talented women who played with such grace and power ultimately gave me some dynamic, passionate role models to look up to. When the coach cut me from middle school golf tryouts, bright purple junior clubs in hand, I was determined to get better and committed to making myself and my role models proud. I began taking over 100 swings each night and spent countless hours on the putting green dreaming of that match winning putt. After being turned away, the sense of accomplishment in being one of the team’s leaders in the following season was one of the best feelings in the world.

For the past six years, I have become accustomed to the mannerisms, smell, and humor of teenage golf boys. However, arriving at the first match brimming with four teams full of tall, strong boys and not another girl in sight made me gulp. The shorter bathroom line was a bonus when I first arrived at the course, but all was forgotten when I went to take my first shot from the female tee box. My teammate, James, walked up to me, noticing my apprehension, and told me the most random, bizarre joke that I had ever heard. In that moment, I knew my teammates had my back, even if I did not always completely comprehend their humor. Over time, the team grew into a tight-knit group of friends who fit together like a puzzle. James can break a bad round with a laugh, Matt gives the best pep talks, and Drew is reliable for sound shot advice, while my niche emerged as bringing positivity and optimism after a bad shot. This team dynamic continued in school as well, as James comes to me after a bad test, while I see Matt before a big presentation. Whether we are on or off the course, we help each other to succeed.

As the daughter of two teachers, country club simulators and memberships to the area’s elite courses were not options for me. Two summers ago, I took matters into my own hands and got a job cleaning out dirty carts and taking out the trash at the local country club. Scrubbing the spilled adult beverages out of the cup holders and disposing of the deteriorating cigars was not how I pictured spending my summers, but was valuable for the free rounds I played. By the end of the summer, I realized my hard work leveled the playing field between myself and my more affluent opponents.

This gentleman’s sport has become such a significant part of my life. The amount of joy I receive from sinking a lengthy putt or driving my ball straight down the center of the fairway reminds me just how grateful I am to play this sport. My sister might still dance in the parking lot after we play a round of mini-golf, I will join her, because I know that I will continue to play golf, and learn from the game, for the rest of my life.